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At a glance: Haiti

Providing water and sanitation for earthquake survivors beyond Haiti’s capital

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UNICEF and its partners are providing water, sanitation and other essential aid for earthquake-affected children and families in displacement camps, not only in the Haitian capital but also in other affected areas.

By Guy Hubbard

LEOGANE, Haiti, 24 February 2010 – Pierre Fuijee used to be a lawyer in the small town of Leogane, an hour’s drive from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. But like many others in the town, he lost everything in the 12 January earthquake.

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Leogane was close to the epicentre of the powerful quake, and large parts of it were flattened. Mr. Fuijee now lives in a makeshift shelter with his wife, mother and two children.

“Since the event, it has been very hard for us, because eight people died in our family,” he said. “The situation is really difficult, especially with the small one, and now the rain is threatening and we can’t protect ourselves because we live in tents.”

While the focus of many aid agencies and media organizations has been on the capital, other areas were also seriously affected. UNICEF and its partners have been working to deliver vital services to children and families living in camps throughout the country.

Preventing the spread of disease
The most urgent intervention in the camps has been the provision of safe water and sanitation. UNICEF and its partners have been setting up collapsible tanks known as water bladders, and digging latrines to keep the camps clear of human waste, in improvised settlements throughout Haiti.

“We’re in an emergency phase, which means that we need to deliver water and we need to deliver emergency sanitation,” said UNICEF Water and Sanitation Specialist Rolando Wallusche Saul. “You have a big likelihood of spreading of diarrheal diseases; that’s why it is very important to build latrines.”

For Mr. Fuijee and his family, the water and sanitation aid has provided a semblance of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal and stressful setting.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0082/LeMoyne
Haitian aid workers, UNICEF and World Food Programme staff prepare to distribute relief supplies in the Pinchinat camp for people displaced by the earthquake, on a football pitch in the city of Jacmel.

Aid for the displaced in Jacmel
The pretty southern coastal town of Jacmel – once a popular tourist destination – was also severely damaged by the earthquake, and thousands are now living in camps here.

In the largest camp, the Venezuelan Army has been able to provide compartmentalized tents for residents. In addition, UNICEF and its partners are providing water and building latrines to supply the still-growing displaced population in the settlement.

Malepa Oliali was living in the ruins of her home before coming to the Jacmel camp. “It’s OK for me,’ she said, speaking about life in the camp. “I use the water for drinking, cooking and washing. The toilets are being built and I have a tent for me, my husband and my children.”

While survivors of the earthquake attempt to rebuild their lives, UNICEF and partners are doing all they can to ensure that everyone is able to live as normal a life as possible. By delivering safe water and improved sanitation, aid workers hope to ensure that children and adults who survived the earthquake can also survive its aftermath.




7 February 2010: UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on delivering safe water and sanitation to earthquake-affected areas outside of Haiti’s capital.
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